Oblige schools to make kids exercise twice a day, advisory councils say

Dutch schools must be legally obliged to ensure that their pupils exercise or play sports for 30 minutes twice a day, the Dutch Sports Council, the Education Council and the Council for Public Health and Society said in a report. "It is a compelling advice to the responsible ministers. We see more exercise as a national interest", Michael van Praag, chairman of the Sports Council, said to NOS. "It's not only healthy, children also learn better and cognitive skills increase when you move occasionally."

Schools in the Netherlands do not currently have a set amount of hours in which their pupils have to play sports, move around or exercise. If it is up to the three advisory councils, that will change.

Children should not only exercise in gym class, but also in other subjects and at other times during the school day, according to the councils. "Besides the gym class, there is too little initiative to move in many schools", Van Praag said. "During the lessons children sit still and in the breaks they play with their mobile phones. That has to change." 

Exactly how the 30 minutes twice a day is spent, will be left up to the schools themselves. "We do not want to oblige schools to spend a certain number of hours per week on gym classes", Van Praag said to the broadcaster. "Schools can fill it out themselves, but with the possibility for the Inspectorate of Education to be able to check up on it."

Learning by moving is one way that schools can turn the councils' advice into action, Van Praag said. "You can, for example, teach children their multiplication tables by making them throw balls or dabs of paper. You can also think fo doing lunges or push-ups during class." Offering more activities during break times is also an option. Schools can also look for more cooperation with sports clubs during activities before and after schools. Municipalities can help with that. 

In June Statistics Netherlands reported that while most kids in the Netherlands participate in sports enough, 45 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 12 do not comply with the movement guidelines. That directive prescribes an hour of moderate movement per day and muscle and bone strengthening activities three times per week.